In 2011, the NASW Center for Workforce Studies and Social Work Practice released the occupational profile, Social Workers in Colleges and Universities.
Social workers play critical roles in higher education settings. Many colleges and universities across the country employ social workers in their counseling centers or as part of their faculty. Social workers employed in colleges or universities tend to focus on the psychosocial functioning of individual students (Gibelman, 2005). Issues that social workers address can be related to academic challenges, adjustments to a new environment, or behavioral issues (Gibelman, 2005). Other issues might include campus drinking, relationships or domestic violence. Social workers in these settings can also work as faculty, preparing social work students to address individual and social problems and to bring about social change. Social work professors may also conduct research on a variety of topics
The list of functions that social workers employ in higher education settings in the occupational profile is very good. However, my biggest complaint with this document is that it overlooks social workers in student affairs positions. A growing number of social workers are obtaining positions as advisers, coordinators, managers, and directors in student affairs areas, including admissions, academic advising, counseling and psychological services, health education, multicultural affairs, community service-learning, and social justice education. While a social worker does not need a license to pursue a career in student affairs, those who are licensed provide field education opportunities for social work students who want to work directly with college students. Greater awareness of social workers pursuing careers in academic and student affairs is vital to ensure that our voices are heard in NASW.